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Prime Minister Netanyahu. Photo: Amir Levy/Getty Images

The Israeli Foreign Ministry has ordered its embassies in Russia, Canada and Bulgaria to cancel planned speaking events by an Israeli academic and prominent Iran expert, claiming he criticized Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s policy on the Iranian nuclear program, officials told me.

Why it matters: For many years, the Israeli Foreign Ministry would send Israeli academics who disagree with the government on speaking tours around the world in order to convey the strength of Israeli democracy. Israeli diplomats view the move against the academic as a sign of retaliation and growing fear of dissent on politically charged issues.

The backdrop: The academic — Raz Zimmt, a former intelligence analyst in the Israeli military and highly respected Iran expert both in Israel and around the world — was invited by the Israeli embassies in Ottawa, Moscow and Sofia (Bulgaria) to give lectures on Iran for journalists, diplomats and opinion-makers. The Foreign Ministry was supposed to pay for his trips abroad.

  • Earlier on Tuesday, the head of the strategic division of the Israeli Foreign Ministry sent a cable to the ambassadors in Russia, Canada and Bulgaria asking them to cancel the invitations they sent to Zimmt due to his positions on Iran.
  • The cable said Zimmt "harshly criticized the government policy on Iran and mainly about the maximum pressure policy we are pushing. Dr. Zimmt’s opinions do not serve our political goals. He is a loud and knowledgeable opposition to our policy. As much as it is possible, we ask that you terminate his arrival."

Zimmt declined to provide comment. In a short tweet, he wrote that he still respects the Foreign Ministry but will continue speaking his mind and expressing his professional opinion.

Go deeper

The front-runners for Biden's Supreme Court pick

Judge Kentaji Brown Jackson (left) and Justice Leondra Kruger (right) Tom Williams-Pool/Getty Images and Lonnie Tague, US Department of Justice

Two highly accomplished Black female judges — Ketanji Brown Jackson, a judge on the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals; and Leondra Kruger, a justice on the California Supreme Court — are seen as the early front-runners to replace retiring Supreme Court Justice Stephen Breyer.

The big picture: Jackson is a powerful federal judge with a record that progressives feel they can trust. Kruger was a highly regarded litigator and has carved out a reputation for working well with conservative judges.

Fed: Rate hikes are near

The Federal Reserve's headquarters building. Photo: Anna Moneymaker/Getty Images

The Federal Reserve is on track to raise its main target interest rate in mid-March, as Chair Jerome Powell pledged to be "humble and nimble" in adapting policy to a fast-changing economy.

Why it matters: Fed leaders are looking to choke off inflation by raising interest rates in the near future, but keeping its options open for how fast and far the effort will go.

How long it’s taken to confirm Supreme Court justices

Expand chart
Data: Axios research, U.S. Supreme Court, Supreme Court Historical Society; Chart: Jacque Schrag/Axios

It takes a U.S. president an average of 70 days from the date a Supreme Court seat is vacated to nominate a replacement, according to data from the Supreme Court Historical Society.

Why it matters: With news outlets reporting liberal Supreme Court Justice Stephen Breyer's plans to retire, Democrats will be looking to confirm President Biden's nominee with enough time to refocus the national political debate ahead of the midterms.